O'FALLON - Constitution Party lieutenant governor candidate Cynthia Davis told KOMU 8 News she would look closely at the constitutionality of proposed legislation if she were elected to that office.
The lieutenant governor is the state's second-highest ranking executive. According to the lieutenant governor's website, the person who holds this office sits on several boards and commissions, many dealing with economic issues. These groups, including the Board of Fund Commissioners, the Missouri Development Finance Board and the Missouri Housing Development Commission, control a number of tax credits. As part of reporters' interviews with the candidates, KOMU 8 News asked candidates their thoughts about the 2010 Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission Report, which contained several recommendations related to these credits. The lieutenant governor also serves as the chief advocate for the elderly and veterans. Finally, the lieutenant governor presides over the senate, votes to break ties in that chamber and most importantly of all, steps in as governor if the governor is unable to carry out his or her duties.
KOMU: As Lieutenant governor, you would sit on several boards that control a number of tax credits, so first off, what are your overall opinions on the 2010 Tax Credit Review Commission Report?
DAVIS: Well, the important thing is to ask what we're doing in a recessed economy to get the economy going again. There are huge problems, and it's not just the whole United States, it's Missouri, too. So when people look at what we're doing to make things better, we have to look at what we're doing to create enough opportunity to be successful. And I'm not a friend of tax credits. I think that's manipulative. I think we've taken a lot of tax credits, and used them to line the pockets of the big boys. And we're doing wealth redistribution. The best way to get the economy going is to reward people for pulling themselves together and allow them to flourish without the cumbersome restrictions that government tends to put on businesses.
KOMU: We're going to spend a few minutes just on a couple of those specific tax credit recommendations the tax commission had. First, I gotta make sure I have all the acronyms correct here. First, one of the recommendations was to lower the jobs threshold for the BUILD Program Tax Credit. What is your reaction to that?
DAVIS: Anything that grows government bigger, that makes government more intrusive, is not the right direction we need to go. So when we're looking at all the programs, we have to ask, ‘Is this going to make more big government, more red tape, more bureaucracies?' Because that's what's killing us. We need to have freedom to let people do what they need to do to get their businesses going. And we need to respect the taxpayers who are funding this, because the tax credits of which you speak, are not created by the trees that magically drop all the money, and it lands on the ground, and we scoop it up and throw it in the bags, and voila, we have money! No. That money came from somewhere. It means hardworking people had to earn it first before it went into the pot to be disposed of, as, however government sees fit. So we have to, at some point, have somebody who's going to stand up for the taxpayers.
KOMU: But I was specifically asking about the BUILD Program. The threshold for jobs would be essentially cut in half.
DAVIS: So your question is, can we create a government program that will help people help themselves.
KOMU: No, I'm not asking you about creating a new program, I'm talking about a modification to an existing one.
DAVIS: Anything that supports free markets is a good idea, and anything that creates more bureaucracy is a bad idea. So I'm all in favor of what's going to limit government and get us back to where we're helping ourselves instead of relying on Big Brother to continue growing bigger. So anything that empowers people to do the right thing on their own is going to be more permanent and sustainable than having our businesses be dependent on another government program. Does that make sense?
KOMU: It does, yeah.
DAVIS: I'm not evading, I'm principling the concept.
KOMU: I understand what you're saying. I know what you're saying. And one of those other tax credits would, I want to make sure I get my terms right here, it would reduce the Missouri Development Finance Board Infrastructure Credit from 50 percent to 35 percent of eligible contributions to taxpayers and it would broaden the definition of taxpayer.
DAVIS: Well, I think anything that reduces government is a step in the right direction.
KOMU: What safeguards would you like to put in place to prevent another situation like Mamtek from developing?
DAVIS: Well, remember, tax credits are the enemy of true tax reform. And we got ourselves into this mess because of all the wizards who tried to invent a grandiose program that's supposed to magically make great big businesses blossom. Some of those big businesses are actually hurting us. They are not giving us good, high-paying jobs. They're giving us low-quality jobs and you can't just say we need to build jobs. First of all, government doesn't build jobs, unless they're hiring 1,600 IRS agents. Then you can say government did create jobs there. But in general, unless you want to be an employee of the government, the question is how can government get out of the way of the private sector so that the private sector is free to create jobs. And one more thing about being on a board or commission. That doesn't mean I get to run the board and commission and make decisions that will be impacting the whole board or commission. I'm not aware of any board or commission that defers to whatever the lieutenant governor wants, they get.
KOMU: Well, I understand that, but you'll still be serving on those boards, so I want to see what your views were on those issues.
DAVIS: And I haven't checked out the attendance record of the current Lieutenant governor in showing up at boards and commissions, but I will tell you, when I was in the Missouri state legislature, I sat on a board and a commission. And when I walked in the room, the current people on the board and commission were shocked to see me. They said, ‘Even though you serve on this board and commission, we're not used to seeing the actual legislators be there.' Now, this particular board and commission, they were supposed to have one member from the House, and one member from the Senate. And the member from the Senate never showed up. So, I'm saying that you are going to see a new way of processing everything when I get there. Being engaged is something that I can handle very well. And in fact, currently, the law says the lieutenant governor can preside over the senate session and shall break tie votes, and can engage in the debates of the body of the whole. We're not seeing that either. So it's okay for people to acknowledge that maybe we don't currently get much out of that in the way of performance and maybe we will, with, well we definitely will, with Cynthia Davis as the Lieutenant governor.
KOMU: But getting back to the Mamtek issue, so you're saying that, so basically...Would I be correct in saying that you blame tax credits in part or in whole for the Mamtek debacle?
DAVIS: Tax credits are the enemy of tax reform. If you have to do a tax credit to get somebody to behave a certain way, then government is manipulating behavior. Government is intruding on behavior, and were it not for government, that behavior wouldn't have happened at all. We have a similar situation in the city of O'Fallon. I served on the O'Fallon Board of Aldermen before I went to the legislature. And the question was, should we build a conference center? And the answer was, if the city of O'Fallon doesn't build it with all of the ability to not pay sales tax on any of the building materials and any of the other components, then it wouldn't be profitable for a private-sector company to do it. Well, let's stop everything, put on the brakes, and say ‘What is going on?' If it's an unprofitable venture for a real person, why should government be getting involved in trying to do things that may not be profitable, either? And why would government try and manipulate the private sector? Or compete with the private sector, in this case?
KOMU: Changing gears a little bit, how would you fight financial exploitation of the elderly, either through MOSAFE or other means?
DAVIS: Well, before we change gears too much, can I add one more point about the tax credit piece.
DAVIS: Well, my brain's already on the elderly. I had a really great thought I wanted to share.
But, let's go on to the tax-elderly. First of all, the most important advocate for the elderly is their families. What is going on right now, is we're behaving, government. Let me back up a minute. Government is acting like family is nonexistent. Like all the children are orphans, and all the elderly are orphans, too. Like if they have no children, no parents, no brother, sister, nobody in their lives who care about them, and it's up to government to make sure that they're being treated alright? There's something hugely wrong with that, because I've got a mom and dad who are still living. My mom is 81 and my dad is 85. And you know what? I'm the best advocate they'll ever have, because I'm not going to let people abuse them. That is my job as their daughter to make sure that they're going to be okay. So you're asking a question about the elderly in general as if they don't have any families.
KOMU: Well, I'm referring specifically to the lieutenant governor's existing job as, for lack of a better term, an advocate for the elderly.
DAVIS: And everybody needs an advocate, everybody should be fighting for each other's safety, wealth, I'm sorry, I said that wrong, I meant safety, health and welfare. You can edit out my wealth. It was mixing welfare and health. Are you with me on that? We all are the wealth of each other, though, truly, and we are the welfare of each other. And it is our duty to fight and protect our communities, because, let me explain it like this. We have family, church and community that exist, and function, and need to be respected and acknowledged. And if family, church and community get diminished and fall apart, government will grow bigger and try and fill in the voids, and we can't grow government big enough to fill in every void left if there is no family, church or community. So the best way to limit government is to strengthen our families, our churches and our communities. They are the best ones. They are the ones who know what's going on. Government is like a vending machine. It gives without love, and people accept without gratitude. Government is not your mama. Government is not the Santa Claus or the sugar daddy. Government is there to secure our rights, to protect our rights, but those rights belong to us because they were given to us from God. And it is the job of government to guarantee that people are treated fairly, but it's up to us to love our neighbor.
KOMU: Alright, but, let's go back to the, and partly I'm playing devil's advocate here, let's go back to the government securing rights. Part of the MOSAFE program is education for both financial institutions and the elderly to help them spot scams and that sort of thing. Where do you stand on that?
DAVIS: We all need to be vigilant to spot scams, and we need to protect everybody, no matter what their age category is. There are people in every age bracket who are being taken advantage of. And it is heinous when somebody in the older group is treated that way. It's wrong. And it's an immorality for us to ignore anybody being treated, or... It is immoral for us to ignore those who need our help. However, with that said, government can't be the be-all, end-all. And government can't guarantee that the world will be just and fair. We will never have enough laws to make everybody (be nice to, this part is lost) each other, and it is not pragmatic to make sure nobody ever gets hurt.
So while the concept may have been well-intentioned, it's not pragmatically doable to make sure that nobody will ever be abused. The only, I mean we have laws against theft. But that doesn't mean that nobody will ever be burglarized or have their home broken into, or have anybody try to grave a wallet. We live in a world where that's part of what happens, and just like, when I was in city government, we realized the only protection we had was to set up a neighborhood crime watch committee, and to say ‘We're going to all have to watch out for stuff from our own neighborhood, because by the time the police arrive, it's too late.'
KOMU: Sorry, I've got a million notes here.
DAVIS: You're going into some very meaty issues. This is wonderful, because most people don't get to the down, under, all the nitty gritty.
KOMU: Well, I'm asking all the candidates the same questions.
KOMU: What changes would you make to the MoRx program, if any? That's the Medicare Part D program that is in place, currently, for the state.
DAVIS: Well, the MoRx program is a good program. And I think that it's helped a lot of people who don't have insurance. The question is, is it getting to everybody? I don't know about that, how effective it is. But anything that helps people be able to afford their prescriptions is definitely a step in the right direction. I actually hosted a town hall meeting on the MoRx program when I was in the legislature, just to try and make people aware that there are other programs out there, where you can find some help. I have a very deep soft spot for people with no insurance as well. And having tried to navigate through the system, it is horrible, trying to walk in and, I mean, I had to buy a prescription for my daughter. And called around and got prices anywhere from 29 dollars to 92 dollars. And this is unbelievable that there is so little, the numbers aren't even close. So it makes me feel like some people are definitely, unless they know how to save money and protect themselves, they're going to end up having to spend a lot more than what's necessary.
KOMU: So as lieutenant governor, you wouldn't advocate any changes to MoRx?
DAVIS: No. I would advocate changes to other parts of Missouri law. But remember, the Lieutenant governor can only advocate. We cannot, it's not any longer like I'll be able to file bills. But I will be able to have a soap box. And a platform that comes with the position. And I intend to do that, to create some awareness, not only with the public, but with the legislature. I received an award for being the most constitutional legislator in the state of Missouri. Did you know about that?
KOMU: I did not.
DAVIS: And what was really special about that was, I didn't know anybody was watching, but there are people who do care, and what really was difficult for me was, in the course of eight years, I had a lot of frustration with how to get information on what bills were going to pass. The leadership knows what they're going to do, but when you're a member of 163 representatives, it's very hard for the rank and file legislators to get any information about what the leadership is intending to whip out on the floor. I can't tell you how many times they would ring the bell and open the board, and the representatives would come running in from all directions.
KOMU: I've been there.
DAVIS: They'd push the red or green button based on how their friends were voting. And then they'd turn to me, because I was a whip while I was there, and they'd say, ‘Now, what did we just vote on?' And it would be up to me to tell them. You know what? That's not serving us well. So as Lieutenant governor, I intend to have sessions in my office where we can actually look at the bills and study the constitutionality of what we're doing so people are informed before it's too late.
KOMU: What are your top priorities for helping veterans?
DAVIS: The first thing is, the veterans need to be respected. I actually am the only candidate in this race who has been endorsed by the National Veterans Commission, I'm sorry, let me back up, I'm the only candidate in this race who has been endorsed by the National Veterans Coalition. And that's because they've gone to support candidates who will be constitutional and who will uphold their rights, and give them, first problem, and this is nothing that is specifically to Missouri, but our national government is prosecuting wars without them being declared by Congress. And that's a huge disrespect to the military, because they're not being given a clear mission. They have no clear goals, and it's not serving them well to know when they've accomplished their goal. We're sending our people to foreign countries to fight something that we don't even know what we're fighting now.
KOMU: How will you ensure that House Bill 1680 is implemented? That expands financial benefits for veterans and expands on the job training. It's the bill that created the Show Me Heroes Program.
DAVIS: Hey, John (Hey, Cynthia!) Good to see you this morning!
I'm not real familiar with that, and since the legislature is out of session, whatever, all the bills went in the trash, and it's too early for new bills to be filed yet this year, so there are no bills in play, however-
KOMU: Well, 1680 actually, I probably shouldn't call it a bill anymore because Nixon signed it into law back in July.
DAVIS: Thank you, thank you. And I appreciate that, because, you know, I wasn't in the legislature last year, I didn't follow every single bill, and I appreciate you helping me out with that.
Good to see you, John! You don't want to be on TV? (Not at all!) Okay. Thank you. He's my UPS driver, so, I'm mentally distracted.
KOMU: That's alright, that's alright.
DAVIS: He didn't make it on camera.
KOMU: No, he didn't.
DAVIS: We need to have heroes, and we need to respect our heroes. And we need to treat them with honor. But we also need to look at whatever they were promised, they're owed. We should never let the legislature diminish a commitment we made to them. There is a huge difference, though, between the national government and the state government. And most of the veterans were working for the national government, and I would like to see an emphasis on the Missouri National Guard folks, because they are being ignored. And that was our commitment to the National Guard. And I have a son, actually, who was in the Missouri Air National Guard, stationed out at Whiteman Air Force Base, working on the B-2 bomber. And he most recently, though, was offered a spot with the Alaska National Guard as a navigator. So he's away at school now, and I wish him the best. But the point is, we need to give people what we promise them. And that's part of being honorable.
KOMU: Do you believe the, changing gears slightly again, do you believe the current number of domestic violence shelters and the resources available to them is sufficient?
DAVIS: Well, the premise of your question is based on the problem of the breakup of the family. And I happen to be an expert on family matters, and that's something you're going to see. I believe I'm the only Lieutenant governor candidate who might have an intact family and be married, and understand those dynamics. My point is, we have to look at what we're doing to ourselves. And if the family breaks apart, which is the bedrock of society, we're only going to see more domestic violence. I became aware of this back when I was in the city of O'Fallon, and I asked the Chief of Police, ‘What is the number one crime problem we have in O'Fallon?' And he said, ‘It's domestic violence.' And that saddened me because it comes from both people who are...The problem with domestic violence is worse with unmarried couples. And if we don't have a culture that encourages family and commitment, it's going to make it very hard for us to address domestic violence by just going after the symptom and never getting to the root cause. Because domestic violence is a symptom of something else that is starting much earlier in the process. And the best way to correct it is to ask what we're doing and what we can do to strengthen families.
KOMU: Okay, so what are some ideas you have for going after the root causes of domestic violence, then?
DAVIS: Well, we need divorce reform, we need shared parenting laws. There's a lot that the legislature can do to actually cut the divorce rate in half and encourage people to marry instead of cohabitate. Cohabitation is really where a lot of the domestic violence is stemming from. The most dangerous place for a child in America is in the home of a single mother with a live-in boyfriend. And if you were to analyze all the child-abuse cases, you would find that the vast majority is being perpetrated by people who are not the biological parents of the children. So if we want to protect children, it starts with strengthening marriage.
KOMU: How will your previous experience in both the public and private sectors aid you in serving as lieutenant governor?
DAVIS: It takes a lot of time to observe the behavior of how government functions before we get what the problem was. When I was in local government, I saw that the big problem was state government. Then, when I was in state government, I saw up close the problems with the federal government. So we're looking at, they all three have the same problem, and that's that all governments tend to be greedy and seek to extract the maximum from their citizens. And unless we start by correcting the problem of all governments attempting to grow bigger, we're never going to have limited government. And as government grows bigger, we're losing our freedom every day. And that's happening regardless of who's running the show. I mean, if we were in Illinois, where the Democrats are running it, then you would expect government to grow bigger. But we're living here in Missouri, where government is supposed to get smaller because the Republicans are running the show, and yet every year it still gets bigger. When I first got elected to the legislature, the budget was $18 billion. Now it's up to $24 billion. How does that happen with the majority of the representatives claiming they're in favor of limited government? I guess the best way to explain it is government is like a river. And the Missouri river is beautiful. We all love it, and it's got little fish and ducks and birds and boats, and it's charming to look at. But if there's a flood, and it overspills its banks, then it becomes something dangerous. Something destructive, and something that is putrid. When we had the flood of the Missouri river here, and the Mississippi, right at the confluence, it was awful, and they said, ‘Don't go in the floodwater. It's got all kinds of bacteria in it.' Well, the problem is, that when government overspills its banks, it likewise becomes destructive and damaging. And it's too much. And so Big Brother has gotten so big he's now obese, and we need to put Big Brother on a diet.
KOMU: Last question. What can you bring to the office of Lieutenant governor that nobody else has, none of the other candidates?
DAVIS: I will bring accountability. That is what is desperately missing, and desperately needed. And what's happening is, when you get people from one party or another, their goal becomes number one, how to get reelected, and number two, their goal becomes how to make their party look good. Now that is not serving us well. We're not seeing any of that level of accountability. I will raise the iron shade and let the sunshine in. I will shine the light on the backroom deals, and the cigar smoked rooms. And if you smoke cigars, don't let me offended.
KOMU: I don't. I don't smoke at all.
DAVIS: The problem is, the decisions are made in the back rooms, and the citizens are getting left out of the process altogether. By the time a bill makes it to the floor, it's already a done deal, and there's rarely any opportunity for the people to have any impact. Unless it comes with money. And that's the other thing I have to offer. You know, these positions are frequently coaches with big money. The big money donors who, they call it a donation, but it's really an investment. And this is a total grassroots campaign. I am the only candidate who has been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life. What that means is, I am the only one who is going to be a true champion for their issues. But the best part is, this campaign is being funded by real people. I have more donations from honest to goodness five dollar bills, hard-earned. Twenty dollar bills. I mean, people have been coming to me and giving their hard earned, blood sweat and tears to try and see somebody get in office who will be constitutional and restore our state to a constitutional presence. And if nothing else, we need to be a conscience for the legislature. That's what I'd do best. I explain things to people. I write a newsletter every week. And in my newsletter, I tell people what is going on. And I explain it so that you don't have to be a lawyer to understand. And when people are empowered with true facts, they will make better decisions. And that really begins with the legislature. We, I got a taste of this near the end of my last session, when one of the representatives had a meeting in his office with just about eight of us. And we were not satisfied with what was going on with the budget. And he said, ‘What are we going to do?' And we all took turns picking which amendment we would offer to try and snip the circuit on the freight train, because it was going to go with or without us. It was time for us to be empowered to tell them when they're wrong and to be effective. So we're on the cusp. You know, they've got more Republicans in the legislature than ever before in history, and yet the government is getting bigger, more intrusive and more expensive at any time ever in history. So the answer is not just let's get more Republicans elected. My favorite story to describe this is the emperor's new clothes. And if the emperor is naked, it's okay to say so. And that is what I would bring to the Missouri Capitol, somebody who is brave enough to say when things are going awry, and not be focused on trying to protect everybody's backside.